Refutation: Jesus says that the Father is greater than he is, proving that he is not God.
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,
Jesus says that the Father is greater than he is, proving that he is not God. There is no one who is greater than God.
Sam introduces the passage upon which the question is based, it reads:
“You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you ‘ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater (meizon) than I.” John 14:28
His immediate response is to confuse himself, he says and I quote:
Yet, if God is a Trinity, a Trinitarian Being (i.e. one eternal God existing in three distinct, yet inseparable Persons), then it is quite possible for one member or Person of the Godhead to be greater in some sense than the other members. It would be true that nothing outside of the Holy Trinity’s own existence could ever be greater, but this doesn’t necessarily imply that there cannot be some type of authority structure or ranking within the internal life and relationships of the Trinity itself.
Logically speaking, this form of reasoning is highly fallacious. Since each member of the Godhead is fully God, and God is perfect in each and every way, to have one God being superior to another God, has to mean that the definition and understanding of God has to change. We must accept that God is perfect, one perfect being cannot be superior to another unless one is less perfect than the other. If a being who is assumed to be a God is not absolutely perfect, then this being cannot by very definition, be considered a God. Hence for there to be a hierarchy within the Godhead, we are dealing with one superior God and two lesser Gods. This presents a theological conundrum, as it must be understood that if the first God in the hierarchy is perfect and there is a second God, then this second God is less perfect than the first, thus it logically follows that the third God would therefore be less perfect than both the first and second Gods. With this in mind, it would be best that Sam disuse the premise that their could possibly be a hierarchy within the Godhead. Notwithstanding the evidential fact that the Godhead in itself is polytheistic in nature.
Polytheistic in the sense that if God is one, then in what sense is this God, multi-personal? In what way is God considered a ‘person’ (an individual of specified character)? If I am to believe that God has specific traits, how can God then be multi-personal without increasing or decreasing His traits amongst distinct individuals, exclusive of Himself? Thus, consequentially, by this very description of God being multi-personal (i.e. the nature of the Godhead), God has been relegated to a person among other persons, therefore equating to multiple Gods. Rather, to foster a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of the Godhead in light of personhood, it would equate itself to God with gods. Seeing that I have aptly demonstrated the incredulous nature of a hierarchy within the Godhead and the illogical and polytheistic nature of the Godhead, let’s continue to examine Sam’s fallacious reasoning:
“For now, let us deal with what Jesus intended to convey to his disciples that the Father was greater than he. In the first place, the term for “greater” (Greek – meizon) does not necessarily imply one who is greater in nature or essence. It can refer to someone or something being greater in position and/or authority“
Since God’s nature is to be all powerful and all perfect, how does Sam seek to qualify his statement in the response he has given? If God is perfect, then he cannot increase or decrease in position, without losing or gaining Godly traits, thus becoming a lesser God or greater god. Therefore the notion that God increasing or decreasing in position or authority means that it does not affect His nature, is highly erroneous and non-sensible. He continues:
“A careful look at the entire chapter of 14 shows the Lord Jesus claiming to have all of God’s omni-attributes:
“And I WILL DO whatever you ask IN MY NAME, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask ME for anything in my name, AND I WILL DO IT.” John 14:13-14
Christ is capable of personally answering all prayers that are directed to him or are addressed in his name. The only way that Christ can both hear and answer all these prayers is if he is both omniscient and omnipotent!”
Sam contradicts himself. At first he claims that their is a hierarchy, now he claims Christ is equal to God. After he has spent a lengthy period demonstrating that the word meizon in Greek can be used to differentiate in power and authority, to promote the understanding that it does not refer to nature (which I have demonstrated is quite ridiculous), he then makes an about turn, negates his previous arguments and tries to demonstrate that Christ is equal to God. This is a sign of a clearly confused individual, trying to reconcile an imperfect doctrine. If Jesus does have all of God’s attributes, then how is he distinct from the person of the Father? Sam’s statement, therefore negates the logic behind the Godhead, well done Sam. On that note, let’s see what the Greek of the verse also indicates. We must be reminded that the Greek of the Biblical text, as with all other languages, has depth. Subsequent to this depth, translations are often consequent to their context. In the case of the Bible, which is a religious scripture, it is quite obvious that the Christian rendition of the text, would attempt to signify Christ’s importance and stature. However, when examining the Greek, as a Muslim, I am able to explore the depth of the text and consider alternate renditions in accordance with the definitions of the words thereby employed. It is with this in mind, that I present an alternate translation based on the Greek of the text:
“And I will do whatever you ask (αιτέω) by (εν) my (μου) authority (ονομα), so that the Son may glorify to the Father. You may ask me for certain things (τίς) by (εν) my (μου) authority (ονομα), and I will do it.” – John 14:13-14, based on the GNT of the Nestle Aland 26th Codex, by way of Strong’s Greek Lexicon.
A Christian would obviously disagree with this rendition because of his presupposed theological views. However, a person who is objective and willing to examine the text for what it is, without biased presuppositions, will be able to accept this English rendition based on the depth of the words used in the verses. This is not perverting the text, as it is normal to find one Biblical verse being rendered in various ways throughout the multitude of Bible translations available to us. In fact, Sam accepts this rendition of the words from the verse used above, as he demonstrates in this article:
“I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.” John 5:43
Just as the late, renowned NT Greek grammarian and scholar, A.T. Robertson noted in his comments on Matt. 28:19:
… The use of name (onoma) here is a common one in the Septuagint and the papyri for power or authority… (Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament; online source; underline emphasis ours)
Thus, Sam’s reliance on one translation is very narrow minded and negates other interpretations of the Greek text, which removes Jesus’ alleged assumption of deity. It is clear from the Greek rendition provided above, that Christ is saying he can do only what he can, by which his authority allows him, therefore he is not omnipotent. Sam does say that Christ is capable of answering all of a Christian’s prayers, so I am going to apply the principle of proof by contradiction and challenge Sam to pray to Christ and ask for a unicorn to appear in front of me, as his rendition of the verse claims that you can ask Christ for anything and he would do it. Since this is not true, and a unicorn will not appear, it is then quite understandable that the verse’s rendition and the conclusions of which Sam has derived from it, are highly inaccurate. He continues by appealing to another verse:
“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, AND I AM IN YOU. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14:20-21″
Again, with returning to the Greek of the text, Sam’s conclusions can be easily negated:
“On that day you will know that I am before/ wherewith (εν) my Father, and you are before/ wherewith (εν) me, and I am before/ wherewith (εν) you. Whoever has my commandments and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him”. – John 14:20-21, based on the GNT of the Nestle Aland 26th Codex, by way of Strong’s Greek Lexicon.
The word “before” is used in the sense that you are in the presence of someone (e.g. I can’t talk now, I’m before the judge), hence the inclusion of the alternate word, wherewith, meaning with a person.This makes the most sense, as Jesus would show himself to those persons and therefore will be before (in the presence of) them and the Lord. Sam makes an interesting interpretation of the verse, he says:
“Christ says that he is IN all the disciples, an impossible claim if he was only a man, or even an angel. But since Jesus is God, and since God is omnipresent, it therefore makes perfect sense for Christ to say he is able to dwell in all the believers at the same time.”
What does he mean that God will be ‘in the disciples’? Does he mean physically? Spiritually? This doesn’t prove Christ’s deity, rather it raises a rather serious theological issue, what does God mean that He will be ‘in’ us? This clearly brings to the forefront, more questions than answers, but if it is one thing Sam’s statements does in this case, it is clearly not proving Jesus’ deity. Sam continues:
“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and WE will come to him and make OUR home with him.’” John 14:23
Both the Father and the Son make their home with all true believers! Christ is clearly claiming co-equality with the Father since he is present with every believer in the same way that the Father is!”
Sam’s logic is that if God accompanies the believers with Christ, then Christ is claiming he is co-equal to the Father. Using Sam’s logic, since the believers are going to be present with the Lord in the same way Christ is present with the Lord, then the believers are all ‘clearly claiming co-equality’ with the Father. Since the latter is nonsensical, how can the former be true? Sam’s logic is clearly infantile, if it cannot work both ways, why does he expect it to work one way? This then, manipulates the full meaning of the text beyond its intended scope. Sam spends the rest of his time trying to equate Christ with the Lord, all of which are easily explained and debunked with employing basic logic and reasoning.
One problem with Sam’s understanding, is that if Sam is promoting the belief that their is a hierarchy, why is he investing so much time into explain ways in which Christ is equal to the Father? Does he not understand how a hierarchy works? By claiming the Father can be greater than the Son, and then demonstrating how the Father is not equal to the Son, Sam is actually contradicting himself. Therefore, in light of Sam’s rivalling explanations, I must ask him, do you believe that the Son is equal to the Father or that the Son belongs in a hierarchy with the Father? The both cannot be true, as either the Son is on par with, or below or greater in rank and authority than the Father. Lastly, Sam claims:
“Thus, the Father was greater in position and rank, not in essence and nature. The questioner is, therefore, committing a categorical fallacy. He/she is confusing the category of position and rank with the category of essence and nature, erroneously assuming that if one is greater in one way, i.e. position and authority, than he/she must be greater in every way, i.e. essence and nature. In light of these clear biblical truths, such is not the case at all.”
Sam’s conclusion is beyond absurd and borders dogmatic arrogance. How can the Father’s rank not describe his essence? How can the Father be greater in rank, but equal in nature? This is like saying, in a track race, the three fastest runners are equal, but the one track runner is first, another second and another third. There clearly is a contradiction in his reasoning and the more he tries to explain it, the more he seems to put his foot in his mouth.
Think of it this way, if the Father is the exact same to the Son in essence and nature, in what way does the Father differ to be superior (greater) than the Son? Sam’s answer is that being greater means that the Son is still the same with the Father, therefore it is either that Sam does not understand the meaning of the word ‘greater’, or the word ‘hierarchy’ or he does not understand the meaning of both those words and the logic behind them. Since this is the case, consider this to be another case of Shamounian logic.
wa Allaahu ‘Alam.